26 September 08 | Chad W. Post

This list of the 50 Greatest Villains in Literature is pretty entertaining. Here are a few of the villains who made it:

38 Gil-Martin from The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, by James Hogg.
Demon? Doppelganger? Symptom of dementia? Whatever the identity of the tempter Gil-Martin in James Hogg’s one-off work of 19th-century post-modernism, his effect on the fragile Calvinist intellect of the protagonist is instant and terrible. “I have no parents save one, whom I do not acknowledge,” claims Gil-Martin, smoothly urging his protegé towards bloodshed and terror in one of the creepiest theological polemics ever put to paper. TM

(May be my ignorance, but I think this counts as an example of an obscure author brought to light via an ingenious reprint.)

34 Clare Quilty from Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

Enchanted hunter and sexual deviant Quilty stalks Humbert Humbert and his beloved like a malevolent ghost. He runs off with the beleaguered Lolita after posing as her uncle, but cruelly dumps her when she refuses to star in one of his home-made blue movies. SM

4 Iago from Othello, by William Shakespeare

Othello’s “honest, honest” subordinate, quietly intent on the destruction of his boss’s world for reasons whose slightness has nettled critics ever since. Coleridge’s formulation “the motive-hunting of motiveless malignity” seems the best answer: behind the smiles and jokes, Iago’s mind is pure seething white noise. TM

and number 1?

Satan from Paradise Lost, by John Milton

There’s a school of thought that the villain of Paradise Lost is actually God. But Milton wouldn’t, at least consciously, have subscribed. Satan is the rebel’s rebel, the villain’s villain – “Hell within him for within him Hell/ He brings…” Easily clinches the top spot in our evil-dude hit parade. SL

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